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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Giordano's [Meeting #61]

310 W. Randolph St. Map
(312) 201-1441

CPC invaded Giordano's on 7/17/2008.

In the five years that the Chicago Pizza Club has been in existence, I am sure that every member has eaten at Giordano's. It is probably the classic stuffed pizzeria in Chicago, but the CPC had overlooked it as a group. The time came to correct that oversight and I, for one, am very glad we did.

Giordano's opened in 1974, allegedly basing its stuffed pies on the owners's mother's Easter deep-dish, double-crusted, ricotta-stuffed pizza. Personally, I am a bit skeptical of their story largely because the people at Nancy's, which preceded Giordano's, introduced stuffed pizza to Chicago and claim their pies are based on a version of an Italian pastry. The founders of both restaurants both are from the Turin, Italy area and both settled in Chicago. I think there must be more to the story and if anyone knows anything about it, please post in the comments.

While Nancy's has largely left the City of Chicago, Giordano's remains stronger than ever. And Edwardo's and Bacino's, two other prominent stuffed pizza chains, were both founded by former Giordano's employees. Regardless of where the idea for stuffed pizza came from, I think that Giordano's can claim more credit for the style's existence than any other restaurant.

So how have decades of fame and success affected Giordano's? Well, going into the meeting, more than a few members were skeptical. I have always liked Giordano's, but I rarely choose to order from it. My skepticism only increased when calls to the corporate office failed to find a human being and my email to the office to discern the oldest location went unanswered. Ultimately, the Club went to the downtown location on Randolph because it is next door to the corporate office.

Seven members attended the meeting at the restaurant that was filled with Chicago-themed artwork, including multiple reprints of old South Shore Railroad posters. The ceiling was decorated with the phrase "Eat Pizza" in multiple languages. We sat in high-backed wood chairs at a table covered with a red and white checkered tablecloth.

We ordered two pizzas, a stuffed spinach and a thin crust sausage. 41 minutes later, our pizzas were served. The stuffed pizza was outstanding. A melted mountain of mozzarella, with loads of fresh spinach, all covered with a chunky tangy sauce with ample fresh oregano, and sitting on a good crust that was strong enough to hold it all.

The thin crust, which we only ordered because of the Club's commitment to trying all stylistic options each restaurant offers, was a welcome surprise. The more than plentiful sausage was well seasoned with a noticeable amount of fennel. The cheese was cooked perfectly with a combination of toasty and gooey textures. Personally, I would have liked more sauce on the crust, but I think I may have been alone in that gripe.

The consensus of the Club seemed to be that we were all excited to be reintroduced to a high quality pie that we had ignored for too long. Giordano's lived up to its reputation as THE place for stuffed pizza.

Petey gives Giordano's 7.416/10.

The thin crust sausage

Stuffed spinach...

More spinach action...

Where it went down...

Giordano's Pizza on Urbanspoon


  1. So I figured this would be a truly "academic" pizza club meeting - merely crossing off another large pizza chain that I expected to be merely average at best.

    No one could tell us where the original Giordano's is and we didn't delve too deeply. If it's not on their website and none of the branches we phoned could tell us, we didn't plan on researching something they cared so little for themselves. Instead, we went to their location right at corporate HQ.

    We kept it simple, one deep dish and one thin. I have to say, I was very happy with what we got. The sausage had a little too much fennel for me, but there was plenty of sausage and the cheese was in perfect slightly-browned-but-still-soft phase. The stuffed had a robust spinach flavor that was well complimented by their sweet but not too-sweet sauce. I was surprised the crust held up so well for both pies. There was a small layer (3mm) of soggy crust underneath the spinach in the stuffed pie, but I don't know if it was undercooked or just a bit of moisture from the spinach. Small details, nonetheless.

    My faith is restored in this company. I haven't had one in a while and when I did it was always take-out. These stuffed pies fare very poorly in a cardboard box for 25 minutes. My cousin Jose goes to Giordano's whenever he comes to visit me; I usually wave it off and he ends up going by himself. After this positive experience, I may indeed join him next time. I'm glad that as one of the hallmark chains representing Chicago it passes muster.

    I give it a 8.1

  2. I was shocked at how good this pizza was. I ate a stuffed pizza at the Belmont location a few weeks ago and, while very good, it was nothing special. Both pizzas were fantastic. And after finding out that sister's boyfriend was going to get the leftover spinach slice even though he missed the meeting, I took it home with me and had it for breakfast. It's quite possible that cold stuffed pizza is the best breakfast on the planet.

    I'd like to see another cheese added to the stuffed (or just a noticeable amount of the parmesan they say is in there), and perhaps some more flavor in the crust.

    I give Giordano's, on this visit, a very enthusiastic 8.4.

  3. I agree the pizza was better than I remembered Giordano's being. I ordered it a fair amount during my Hyde Park college years, but for me since then it has also just been the occasional stop at the Greektown location when visited by Jose, el primo de mi esposo. There was really no bad element to any of the pizzas. I definitely attribute the slightly soft and wet crust under the spinach to moisture from the spinach, and I wouldn't go so far as to call it soggy. I thought the toppings were great, especially the spinach, which was in nice big leaves and wasn't as wet as a lot of places. The sauce, cheese, and crust were each good, though none spectacular.


  4. The last time I had Giordano's Pizza I remember saying "this is the last time I will have Giordano's pizza". Granted that was before my Pizza Club days and it was delivery. I thought our pizzas were quite good. The thin crust in my opinion was better than the famous stuffed as it had plenty of sausage which was very tasty and on every single piece. The stuffed was good but could have used some more sauce. I think this place is very good if you are going to get the pizza while its hot. I give it a solid 7.5/10.

  5. Giordano's is an above average chain restaurant for dining in or delivery. I agree with other reviewers that the crust does tend to get soggy, especially with vegetarian toppings, but give it enough time and the meat ones will too. Cheese was above average and sauce was unevenly dispersed. Overall, a decent default pizza chain.


  6. Giordano's is an old favorite. Growing up in Hyde Park, it was definitely one of the only options for stuffed pizza. Now that I'm part of the pizza club, my sensitivity to quality is so important that I must overcome any sentimentality. Therefore, my judgment is clear and objective, I swear.

    As with any stuffed pizza, the crust is very important. In this case it was very strong (and a bit salty), despite the multiple layers of cheese and spinach. The quality of the cheeses and fresh spinach were very high. The wait for it all was reasonable. My only negative was the sauce. It just didn't add very much. So therefore, I give it a 7.

  7. Hello All,
    I don't know if I get to comment on your experience at Giordano's since I work there, but I'm pleased to hear that you had a pleasant experience. I'm the general manager for the flagship location on Rush Street, also corporate chef. In response to your question about the original location, (sorry you couldn't get through to anyone!) Hyde Park would be the answer you are looking for.
    The original version of the stuffed pizza may have taken a few different forms since it originated in Sicily and each town had it's own version. The correct term is Pizza in Teglia (pizza in pan). Most commonly a traditional staple at Easter dinner filled with ricotta. To hear it called a pastry is also correct since the original version never had sauce on it at all. This was a Chicago variation. The classic Sicilian version would have had an egg wash on the outside and baked until it had a shiny golden brown crust. This pie has definitly evolved into what it is today. I would love to have the your club as guests in my restaurant for pizza and my favorite thing, talking about pizza! Please feel free to contact me anytime at 312-951-0747 or email me at l.spizzirri@giordanos.com.
    Good eating,
    Leo Spizzirri

  8. I've done some additional research - the first Giordano's was at 6253 S. California.

  9. I knew that restaurant as the first, or so I was told. It was actually just off of 63rd street on the south side, between Kedzie and California and you had to walk down from street level. Leo above says the first was in Hyde Park and since he works there, he should know, but now I am confused. I was always told the one on the south side was first. Hw do we resolve this?

  10. I know there was a Giardanos at 106th and Avenue 'B' on the South East side of Chicago in the 70's. It was soon renamed Giappos after a couple of years. Can't recall if it used the same logo and the exact years it was there, but most importantly, the pizza was the same.

  11. @ David Krump: The location at 6253 S. California was definitely the first.

  12. 6253 S. California moved to approx 3228 W. 63rd street prior to 1979. The 63rd street location was the below street-level location.